NY Waste - Halloween 2010
It was a Sunday morning like any other. I awoke with a dull headache, accompanied by recurring waves of queasiness from a Saturday night out spent drinking. The soreness, the discomfort, the gassiness it was all muted (well, maybe not the last part). I’d gotten better at handling hangovers over the years. I’d heard that the opposite was true with age. It made getting older even less appealing since for most of my adolescence a hearty night of drinking left me wiped out the next day, of no use to anyone under most circumstances. So what was so urgent this Sunday that I had to drag myself out of bed? The Williamsburg Zombie Crawl.
I’d agreed to meet NY Wastes’ Art director, Glenn Wernig, at the Charleston Bar in Brooklyn for this event. Smack in the artery of the trendy love muscle of Williamsburg, I figured if nothing else wandering around Bedford Avenue would make for a nice bit of summer people watching. That is to say I wasn’t necessarily committed to getting made-up, just being an amused spectator. I’ve always liked special effects, the latex kind in particular, but never considered myself a gore fan or maybe zombie fetishist is more appropriate. I thought of zombies and horror movies as part and parcel of a good iconoclast’s weaning; there are books and movies that any self-respecting (and self-diluted) dissenter/iconoclast must read and watch, and the others just trickle in with the random acquaintances we make over the years with little thought as to their merit. They’re just part of our landscape, and eventually a part of us. So I had nothing against zombies, but everything for bar crawling, especially since it culminated in a performance by Bobby Steele’s and free PBR.
I arrived at the Charleston to find the sidewalk and street swarming with the undead. Everything from simple whitened faces to open neck, head, and face wounds oozing red corn syrup was there to catch the attention of the unsuspecting pedestrian, and plenty of the unsuspecting there were. The chosen bar was zombie home base not only for its cheap drinks and easy access to trains, but because it made room for the troupe of make-up artists from Philly who volunteered to make-up anybody who wanted to be made up. Now when it comes to getting made-up, you get what you pay for, and I paid nothing. I walked away from my first session looking like a zombie drag queen. By the luck of the draw I had gotten this buxom woman with electric pink hair, combed back against her forehead and into a mini beehive, named Fawn. In a strapless black dress that hugged her curves to her knees, she smacked me across the face repeatedly with gobs of make up: green foundation on the cheeks and forehead, black shoe polish under the eyes, and red corn syrup around the lips, while telling me how she loved the freedom of volunteering because she didn’t have to be mindful of following the rules of proper blood splatter that is otherwise expected of them in their industry. She mostly used one hand. The other held a cocktail. The result? Zombie tranny.
By the time I got a second session done, the artists were just about packing it up. The official crawl was underway. Glenn had also shown up looking convincingly, if not for a few extra pounds, like a decomposing corpse. He’d done his own make-up, naturally, and couldn’t take more than a few steps without being complimented and asked to pose for photos. Convinced that I finally looked brutally undead enough, I joined the crowd limping, pawing, and straggling their way down the middle of Bedford Avenue toward McCarren Park where we were promised the spectacle of a “Human Tug of War.”
Since the crawl wasn’t an event sanctioned by the city, no streets were closed off for us. But the few Sunday commuters on the road hardly seemed to mind slowing down to gawk at the horde of 50 to 60 zombies, while the law abiding zombies dispersed to give the motorists the right of way, as well as a show. Every car that passed was pawed, usually with bloodied hands. If their windows were down, half-hearted attempts to reach into the cars were made to the chorus of “Brains!” More than a few passengers, some how, were ready with their cameras, and others were even quicker with their camera phones. What better way of breaking up the monotony of a lazy Sunday than with zombies on parade.
Once at McCarren Park, we were informed by the zombie ringleader that the event was also tied to a book release. An author had decided to publicize the release of his teenage-comedic-horror book by creating a cinematic trailer for it (that’s right, a trailer for a book!). Incorporating it into the Zombie Crawl and Bobby Steele’s (of Misfits and Undead fame) performance just made too much sense to pass up. The high school horror theme explained the five undead football players in full garb who stood out back at the bar. It also explained why a mock football game was now being played where volunteers were expected to risk getting pummeled by this same brawny, undead, defensive line as they protect the lead actor of the trailer from getting sacked.
The “Human Tug of War” was exactly what it sounds like. A suspension team based out of god-knows-where had perfected the art of sinking hooks into the back-muscles of petite girls and having them pull painfully away from each other, without any serious injury occurring to the participants. The same cannot be said about your sensibilities. You’re in equal parts wonder and horror at what the human body is capable of and at the possibilities of this spectacle going wrong. Once it became clear that hooks weren’t going to rip through the prettily tanned and tattooed flesh of these pixies, they introduced a third player. A formidable stocky guy with barrel forearms, two hooks were dug into his forearms; now the war was a three way two against one. The third man was more than enough brawn to take on both girls. So the ringleader encouraged people in the audience to participate by grabbing the girls by the arms and pulling. And participate they did.
At the venue we met the author of the book and saw the trailer. It was hard to tell whether the laughs came from the plot (team captain uses voodoo to bring teammates back from the dead in order to play the championship) or from the directing and use of schlocky special effects, which I’m sure was meant to be campy in the first place. It was only when I remembered that there was no actual movie to go along with the trailer that I realized how much work and imagination this must have taken. But then the unthinkable happened: we were informed that the Bobby Steele show was, in fact, not tied into this event, and that even though we were already in the venue, we’d have to leave and pay to reenter to see the performance. This was by far the lowest point of the night, and frankly I would’ve blown it off if I hadn’t gotten chummy with Fawn, the tipsy make-up artist, and more particularly with her friend Farina, also a make-up artist.
In the end Bobby put on a good show. His tunes were solid rock songs that you could easily jump around to without ever having heard them before. He was also kind enough to do a few Misfits and Undead covers that really got the room dancing. And since the PBR was flowing freely for an hour, even the unpleasantness of having to pay to reenter a room you were already in became a distant and blurry memory. Now I still don’t consider myself a zombie fetishist, although I wholeheartedly enjoy underwater fight scenes between zombies and sharks, I definitely had a good time at the Zombie Crawl and would do it again. Not because I like walking around with sticky corn syrup dripping down my shirt on a summer day or think it’s a shocking or novel idea, but because it is amazing how approachable people (including yourself) become when in masquerade. By the pretext of being a zombie horde, all other pretenses are out of place. Even a lady’s sense of decorum is compromised among the carnality of a zombie orgy and a timely photo op: on multiple occasions random, lovely living-dead-girls got in my face, licked my face, bit my face, and generally manhandled me before the shutter of any passerby with a camera and all because I looked like a bloody, mangled mess. Works for me.
- MKN -